The Player: Allen Yurko of Invensys - The advantage of being open

There should be no strategy that doesn't include an understanding of technology. You mustn't take your eye off developments
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The Independent Online
PERSONAL DETAILS: Aged 48, born in Montreal but moved to USA in 1959 and became a US citizen in 1986. Moved to UK in 1992. Now lives in Wentworth in Surrey. Drives a "classic Porsche", enjoys messing around in boats. Mr Yurko is a keen golfer, but most of his spare time is spent with his children, aged three and one. "I don't worry about restructuring when I get home. I go to the odd play and like to travel, but now I'm really a family man."

CHALLENGE: People issues mostly. Not surprising given the dramatic and ongoing reduction in staff at Invensys after the merger of BTR and Siebe. "You can never spend enough time getting to know people. I don't take any joy in cutting 11,000 people. It hurts, but it's making other people's jobs more secure." He doesn't lose sleep over Invensys's trading figures, but he does admit to a slight fear of the competition. "I worry about Honeywell."

CORPORATE BACKGROUND: Mr Yurko has an economics degree. His career began in 1978 as a divisional controller for Joy Manufacturing of the US. He moved to Eaton Corporation as group controller before becoming chief financial officer of Mueller Holdings. "What I learnt from my bosses in these jobs was the importance of having a tremendous sense of urgency." Mr Yurko came to Siebe as a vice president of one of its US subsidiaries in 1989. He reached the board in 1991. The following year he became managing director. "When I came to Siebe, Barry Stevens was chairman - he had a sense of urgency too. So does Colin Marshall [the present chairman]." Mr Yurko was appointed chief executive in January 1994. "I've always had high aspirations but until I became vice president I wasn't shooting for the chief executive's job but for the chief financial officer's." Mr Yurko is a non-executive director of Tate & Lyle, and has an MBA from Baldwin- Wallace College in the US.

STRATEGY: Mr Yurko's strategic vision is founded on technology. "There should be no strategy that doesn't include a clear understanding of technology in the industry. The lesson I've learnt is that you mustn't take your eye off developments and you must apply intelligence to production. Many companies failed to recognise that valve-based systems just weren't growth businesses - they didn't see that microchips were coming. Now that's changing too and what's central today isn't chips but software."

After technology, Mr Yurko focuses on the bottom line and generating cashflow. After all, "you need the cash to invest in the technology". Mr Yurko's business brain stretches to more abstract matters too, however. "Globalisation," he says, "is also key. When I was in the US, 90 per cent of time was spent talking about the domestic market and 10 per cent about the rest of the world. But in the UK, it's the other way round. Emerging markets may be down at the moment, but they will pick up and Invensys will be there when they do."

Mr Yurko is dismissive of those who are sceptical of the virtues of scale. "Some mega-mergers go right, some go wrong. In my industry, consolidation has created shareholder value. Sustaining growth means being in the top five."

MANAGEMENT STYLE: Mr Yurko has one philosophy for both business and life: "Be open with people and let there be no misunderstanding." He says those who work with him would describe him as tough, but fair.

MOST ADMIRES IN BUSINESS: Mr Yurko declines to nominate anyone, but insiders say he admires Mr Big himself, Jack Welch, of General Electric in the US.

CITY VERDICT: "Yurko is a very charismatic, forceful and very ambitious chief executive," says one analyst. "He drives his business and his employees very hard. He sets very aggressive targets in a very public way. But if he can't achieve his goals by driving the business he'll achieve them in other ways. His acquisition of BTR was a great way of achieving profits growth through a no-premium merger." Other analysts agree. "Siebe had a tendency to capitalise costs rather than charging them to the profit and loss account," says Peter Reilly of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. "He likes doing deals. Perhaps he'll end up in a North American company where they're more disposed to growth by acquisition."

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